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Minister assesses impact of Ebola on agriculture

NOVEMBER 19, 2014

Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security (MAFFS), Dr. Joseph Sam Sesay, last Thursday (13th November) led a team on a three-day assessment of the potential impact of the deadly Ebola disease on the agricultural sector.

Dr. Sesay met with staff of District Agriculture Offices to get first-hand information on the status of agriculture amidst the ongoing Ebola crisis.

District Agricultural Officer (DAO) for Bombali District, Aiah Joseph Thorlie, explained that they had undertaken numerous tasks aimed at mitigating the effects of the disease on the sector in Bombali, one of the worst affected districts.

Thorlie revealed that the protected forest area in Tambaka is being threatened by encroachers, who he alleged are being encouraged by the Paramount Chief.

He disclosed that they had seized sixteen power saws from illegal loggers, adding that prior to the Ebola outbreak Community Banks and Financial Services Association (FSAs) built by the Ministry, through the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), were teeming with customers who went to repay loans. He revealed though that farmers no longer repaying loans, which he said was one impact of the outbreak.

He congratulated the minister on his recent appointment as Chairman of the Committee on Agriculture of the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO).

“This appointment is for the entire country and not only you Mr. Minister,” Thorlie said.

Prince Kamara, Project Coordinator of the Smallholder Commercialization Programme (SCP), disclosed that the ministry would soon commence activities under the Linking Farmers to Market (LFM) project, and warned staff who abandon their duty stations to resign or undertake tasks specified in their Terms of Reference.

In his statement, Dr. Sesay said the sector would have been far ahead in the implementation of new projects aimed at further improving the state of agriculture in the country, but for the Ebola outbreak.

He disclosed the establishment of the National Protected Area Authority (NPAA) and four National Parks – having inherited only one.

He stressed that the agriculture sector is very strategic in the fight against the disease, and noted there had been a slight increase in imported items, including rice.

Because of alternative foodstuff like cassava, garri and sweet potatoes, Dr. Sesay said, people have been less affected by the outbreak because of non-dependence on rice alone. “This is our resilience strategy and we have to maintain this,” the Agriculture Minister stated.

The Diversified Food Production Project (DFPP) and GAFSP, he disclosed, would soon recommence, adding that he would soon commission sites for construction of additional Agricultural Business Centers (ABCs), Ward Offices, FSAs etc.

“Without the farmers… we would not succeed no matter what we do. Let us leave a mark for others after us to enjoy and witness,” the Agriculture Minister declared.

The Minister also made a stop in Magburaka, Tonkolili district, where he was briefed by the DAO, Haroun Rashid Kamara, on progress made so far in the agricultural sector, notwithstanding these difficult times.

Similar meetings were held in Bo district, which addressed burning issues, including the Kangari Hills National Park, while the DAO of Bo District – Joseph Kabileh – gave an overview of successes registered by his office even in the worst Ebola outbreak in the world.

Dr. Sesay also inspected ongoing construction work of Ward Offices at Masahun in Kakua Chiefdom; Gerehun, Boama Chiefdom; Fallu; and Yamandu, including a tour of the Sierra Leone Wetlands Conservation Project at Mamunta-Mayossoh Conservation site.

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